In the industrial automation sector, there is no shortage of need for increased production. We have all heard that “There needs to be a ____ % reduction in the cycle time for this line” or “We need to make _____ more parts per day”.
How does one find these gremlins that make our lines run slowly? We attack the process. Unless there has already been a lot of improvements, or major work in the planning phases, there will most likely be process improvements that can be implemented.
The target should always be increased efficiency. Not speed. Just because the robot’s moves have all been changed to 100%, does not mean that the overall process will be improved.
- Does the robot have to wait?
- Does that robot wait on another robot or a third party machine?
- Does the robot wait on process confirmation that does not present a physical crash situation?
- Can the process confirmation be combined in order to improve the subprocess?
- Would having a second robot to complete the task improve process efficiency?
- Some tasks can be accomplished faster by division of labor over a defined area
- Would the mutual interference zones counter gained speed?
- Does the downstream process need optimizing?
- Are the parts arriving at the assembly point at the same time? Does this affect the robot process time?
- Is it possible to add a stand for pre-processing or completed parts to let the station move ahead?
- Is there a buffering system that will let the cell work on parts ahead of the downstream cell providing a cushion for downtime?
There are positions that spend their days contemplating efficiency of future cells or lines with metrics based on previous experience and extensive testing. Process Engineers take their work very seriously. Once a cell or an entire line has been installed, it is a logistical nightmare to add additional equipment or robots. This is linked to space and budget confinements.
Now that you know, how will you attack these problems?
Don’t forget to thank a process engineer!